The joyous existence of a skinflint

komb-house-650x433

I love this house, don’t you just love this house? This is the dream home of Karim Rashid. It has solar panel heated water, energy-efficient appliances, reuse of pluvial and grey water, low energy LED lighting and raised radiant flooring – but we’re most interested by the “combs” that give the house its name. These reclaimed wooden fins (which look like comb teeth) are set at angles to let in light while also providing privacy. Inside, the house consists of four main areas known as “play,” “eat,” “sleep” and “cleanse.” . I can’t help but admire Mr Rashid for taking some of his millions and expending them on the design of an eco-friendly home. I can well understand why, having spent so much money on his living arrangements he might resent having to pay a mansion tax on his humble dwelling. After all, as a top Labour donor has remarked,‘Business people in London live in houses worth millions but that does not mean that they have the means to pay the tax.’

homeless

And so on to the tale of a gentleman who also did not have the means to pay a tax on the home he was attempting to occupy, Daniel Gauntlett. Mr Gauntlett is now regrettably no longer with us, this is in part due to a law that was passed fifteen months ago, Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. I love that the name of the act has the words ‘Legal’ and ‘Aid’ in it, giving you the impression that the law is all about helping people-like in the good old ‘poor people is our people’ days-it isn’t. What it is about is criminalising residential squatters. Mr Gauntlett, a 35 year old unemployed man had no home, but he had found a home that was unoccupied and which he attempted to squat. Unsurprisingly in modern day Britain, the police were called and Mr Gauntlett was removed from the property in line with the new law that had been introduced.

In February 2013, Mr Gauntlett lay down on the steps outside the unoccupied house he was not permitted to squat, fell asleep and never woke up.

weatherley

Mr Weatherley who introduced the legislation that led to the death of Mr Gauntlett had this to say,

‘It is true that some of those who are homeless have squatted but this does not make them squatters. A typical squatter is middle-class, web-savvy, legally minded, university-educated and, most importantly, society-hating. They are political extremists whose vision for society is a dysfunctional medieval wasteland without property rights, where an Englishman’s castle is no longer his home . If squatters really cared about the homeless then they would help them access council services, not scare them into believing that they would be arrested.’ (Kent Argus 2013)

Unsurprisingly Mr Weatherley found himself the target of much vitriol and a rather nasty political spat ensued (or so I’m told). I’m sure he felt bemused by the outrage the death of this impoverished pleb provoked. Why, he must have wondered didn’t Mr Gauntlett simply get on his bike and find a job?

Advertisements

How To Become A Millionaire

1588748_orig

How to triumph over adversity; first, take a Sudanese refugee who inspite of the difficulty of his circumstances chooses to advocate, on behalf of orphans caught up in a conflict in the Sudan. Then add an altercation with two police officers, resulting in an arrest and two convictions for assault (later quashed). Stir a little, then mix in the confiscation of the refugee’s car plus the charity documents contained therein, and so the dissolution of the charity he was trying to set up. Sprinkle with a liberal dose of court action taken against the police (for wrongful arrest and defamation) add a dash of things going right-he was finally rehoused- and you should have the makings of a happy ending.

Southwark2

 I say should have, because as this Sudanese refugee (we’ll call him Faisul Akintola ) found out, when Southwark Council is in the mix the path of true happiness never runs smooth. Faisul was very happy in his little flat, it was the first real home he had, true, the Housing Benefit payments did not cover all of his rent, but because he was certain that ‘things could only get better’ he didn’t worry about that too much. The important thing was that he had a home, fast forward a few years and we find Mr Akintola in three thousand pounds of rent arrears (constantly negotiating through the years to get this sorted with Southwark council).

122385897_derelict-_390086c 

Fast forward still further, and we find him walking down to Chicken Cottage for some take out; only to return to his flat and find that the locks on his door have been changed and his belongings have been despatched to the local dump. Apparently Southwark council had notified him of the action they intended to take via email. an email which he might well have read, had not his laptops been illegally confiscated along with the rest of his belongings by the housing department. Mr Akintola was homeless, devoid of all identification, which as a refugee in this country he would have needed, devoid of all personal possessions. He spent a year sleeping on the floors and sofas of various friends, but he did not despair, instead he sued the b’jesus out of Southwark Council. At the conclusion of Mr Akinola’s case the judge had this to say,

 ‘Mr [Brian] Davis, Ms [Christiana] Okwara and Ms [Johanna] Ashley [council officers] exercised their powers as public officers in relation to a local authority secure tenancy for an improper motive. They each acted with the intention of harming AA be evicting him when there were no reasonable grounds for evicting him and by arranging for his possessions to be seized and destroyed unlawfully. Each is, in consequence liable for misfeasance in public office and the London Borough of Southwark is vicariously liable for the commission of that tort.” (Para 294)

 He was scathing about two of the officers’ behaviour: “Mr Davis and Ms Okwara were determined to obtain AA’s eviction whether it was lawfully obtained or not. Their motive in acting as they did was demonstrated to be an ‘eviction at all costs’ motive. There is no other explanation for Ms Okwara’s delay in attempting to notify AA of the date of the eviction, in only half-heartedly attempting to carry out a home visit, in apparently hiding the relevant documentation from the Housing File and in making no attempt to obtain the permission of a judge to apply for a warrant.

“Equally, there is no other explanation for the series of lies that they told Mr Matthews about the telephone calls they made during the eviction and in deliberately engineering an eviction at which neither the income nor the resident officer were present and in making no effort to identify AA’s possessions, prepare an inventory of them and then remove them safely to storage.” (Para 281)

The moral of this tale? Every devious cloud has a silver lining, in this case the hefty lump- sum compensation paid to Mr Faisul Akinola by Southwark Council.

1390676797-london-protest-says-axe-the-bedroom-tax--no-evictions_3755177

Speaking Up For The Powerless

a057528226e23b788f6472919733104a

It’s hard to know who to thank, the adult victims and female victims who stepped forward and recounted their suffering at the hands of paedophiles and their procurers. The organisations who have had a hand in helping to pick up the fragments of wounded people’s lives and fuse them back together again. Exarro who have displayed the dogged journalistic tenacity and cunning of a world weary rottweiler, in their determination to see justice done for all the child abuse victims. Tom Watson for sobbing on the radio over the tragedy and pain, and hurt and humiliation of the defenceless, as well as championing the cause that fell into his hapless lap, stubbornly, aggressively, ferociously and most virtuously I might add. Perhaps even Teresa May who very calmly sat and listened to the unbridled filth developing children had been relentlessly and callously dragged through, in their formative years.

6

When I say filth I’m not judging the victims, I’m defining the notion that wealthy influential men who were ostensibly respectable and above reproach in public. Men who loved treasured and protected their own children, would then stride abroad, unlocking the caskets of their profligate degeneracy in front of other people’s unprotected children, some of whom never survived the experience. We are all familiar with the story of Vishal Mehrotrah, a child who went missing a mile from his family home in London. His father, a middle-class suburban professional, could never have dreamed that he would be informed of his eight year old son’s fate by a male prostitute familiar with Elm Guest House. Nor could he have imagined being told by the police, funded by the state, that it would be best for him if he did not inquire too closely into the fate of his eight year old child at the hands of very wealthy, very married, politically connected paedophiles.

19810814 MISSING BOY VISHAL MEHROTRA CN

As Teresa May laid out the details of who would head the inquiry, details of the pre-appointment hearing-before a select committee, the criteria for the new panel as well as the funding to support work with the victims, I’m sure many would have been relieved, there is to be an inquiry, and it will be chaired by someone credible. What is more where evidence is uncovered regarding prosecutable activities, and where the perpetrators are alive, they will be prosecuted courtesy of Operation Hydrant.

Jimmy Savile

Yes, Jimmy Saville is dead, Peter Hayman is  dead, Cyril Smith is dead, but the system that protected them isn’t. Agents of the state who deemed it more worthy to manipulate the dirt they had on these men than to save the children. A police force busy investigating and collating evidence on the known proclivities of these men, evidence that went to whom, was collated by whom and for what purposes other than protecting our children’s well-being, we don’t yet know. The system that ruined the lives of countless children in countless institutions for ‘the good of the state’ deserves to be scrutinised and judged in some part and to some extent during this inquiry it will be. For that at least and any probable prosecutions we have to be grateful.

Poverty & The Trouble It Breeds

78468504

‘How do you think the financial situation of your household will change over the next 12 months? 19% thought better, 32% worse’

– You Gov/ Sunday Times Statistics

Here are some more statistics:-

  • Parents with disabilities often face multiple barriers to work; children with disabilities place additional demands on the family.
  • In 2009/10, families with at least one disabled member were 30 per cent more likely to live in poverty than families without disabilities.

Now these statistics are a depressing enough read, but not for the government it would seem, they intend to abolish the Independent Living Fund alongside having reintroduced the work capability assessment via Maximus. ATOS are long gone it would seem, having been induced by the government to ‘exit its WCA contract early.’ The Work Capability Assessments are still in place however, courtesy of the government’s ‘Welfare Reforms Program’ (which don’t forget, Labour endorsed when it voted in favour of the OBR).

nowyouseeme

Well, how about some more statistics:-

  • Certain ethnic minorities are also more likely to live in poverty.
  • As with people with disabilities, discrimination in the workplace clearly plays a role in depressing incomes.
  •  In 2009/10, people from ethnic minorities were 64 per cent more likely to live in poverty than average.

This is hardly news if you live in the inner cities where sadly, a lot of landlords consider it reasonable practice to stuff their houses (and garden sheds) full of legal immigrants on minimum wages. These unfortunate workers have no intention of living long term in their designated ‘rabbit’s hutches’ but with ‘discrimination in the workplace’ being what it is….But wait! Hold on for a minute! Did not the most esteemed Trevor Phillips state,

‘race relations have improved in the last 15 years…..we should no longer use the phrase “institutionally racist” to describe companies and public services.’

– Quote from The Most Esteemed Trevor Phillips 

Right, according to that quoted assertion, race relations have significantly improved, so that now only 64% of ethnic minorities find themselves more likely to live in poverty than the average. That’s quite some improvement, for people struggling to make ends meet in neighbourhoods with closed Sure Start Centres, youth clubs and libraries. People who simply don’t have the money to send their children on school field trips, or skiing holidays in prep school surroundings (Eton-Style). People who honestly can’t afford those (once council funded) music lessons.

windfall

You may not ever find yourself in adequately paid employment but be of good cheer! Race relations have improved! A former Labour party approved appointee (whose skills were said by one former member of the Equalities & Human Rights Commission to have come at too great a cost) said so! Incidentally, the EHRC used to be called the Commission for Racial Equality under Sir Herman Ouseley, a principled, combative soul, who now chairs the anti-racism ‘Kick It Out’ football campaign. Under Sir Ouseley the Commission for Racial Equality did its job, it addressed race discrimination and promoted equality. During Blair’s administration that changed, ah well onwards & upwards with the stats!

still-of-dave-franco-in-now-you-see-me-(2013)-large-picture

  • Only 48 per cent of 5 year olds entitled to free school meals have a good level of development at the end of their reception year, compared to 67 per cent of all other pupils.
  • Less than half of pupils entitled to free school meals (just 36 per cent) achieve 5 GCSEs at C or above, including English and Maths, this compares to 63 per cent of pupils who are not eligible..
  • 1.6 million children are growing up in homes which are too cold

All these statistics make one thing glaringly obvious, as a country we need real change at in government, the kind of change that resonates social justice leading to a society that espouses prosperity for all, not just for some. Yet according to the Barnardo’s Charity,

‘It is predicated that by 2020/21  another 1 million children will be pushed into poverty as a result of the Coalition Government’s policies.’

What is worse, the Labour Party has endorsed those policies and intends to carry them out, to the letter, if they attain government. Anybody get the feeling that we’re being conned?

screen_shot_2013-05-08_at_2.37.55_pm

Not That I Agree With Viscount Rothermere But….

6a00d8341d417153ef019aff5b8049970b-450wi

Nope! I won’t be talking about parliamentary expenses, because even though many politicians are still on the take, we the electorate have just about done that topic to death. So today I thought I’d touch on the sensitive topic of tax evasion, I thought I’d start with a little quote;

‘The respected Financial Times columnist Gillian Tett wrote a year or two back that it was deplorable that no banker was sent to prison following the 2008 big bust. Today, bonuses may have fallen a tad, but failure is still being handsomely rewarded. Beyond pay, many of Britain’s biggest earners are expert tax avoiders.

For instance, one private company with a sole owner declared an income last year of £12  million, but paid just £315,000 in corporation tax, after writing off ‘administrative expenses’ of nearly £11  million. Shocking, is it not? The owner, a Mr Blair, apparently conducts his business operations across several continents through a network of companies, most of which escape having to publish accounts.

Their activities are perfectly legal. But they create a stench in the nostrils to compete with any banker’s body odour.

This Mr Blair could not, surely, be any relation of the Tony Blair who said in a 1994 speech when campaigning to become Opposition leader: ‘We must tackle abuse of the tax system. For those who can employ the right accountants, [it] is a haven of scams, City deals and profits.

‘We should not make our tax rules a playground for revenue avoiders and tax abusers who pay little or nothing, while others pay more than their share.

His company Windrush Ventures is a pace-setter for those who earn vast rewards while contributing an astonishingly small proportion to the Britain he once governed.’

Alas, that much to the inordinate glee of the Daily Mail, it was indeed the self-same Labour politician. Who having twice been voted into government now saw fit to live (well out of the way of the common Englander) much as his forbears (amongst them Margaret Thatcher) had lived.

Now Labour would have us believe, that they are suffused with horror and indignation at the sight of Steffano Pessina stoutly asserting that to elect Labour would be ‘bad for business’. Bad for business Mr Pessina? By what stretch of the imagination? Mr Pessina elaborates;

‘If they acted as they speak, it would be a catastrophe. The problem is, would they act that way or not? One thing is to threaten and to shout, but it is completely different to be in charge and to manage the country day to day.’

Deary me Mr Pessina, does the notion of Labour in power panic you that much? Were you not told about the hundreds of Labour politicians who trooped merrily through the yes gate in parliament, rubber stamping further Conservative austerity measures? Obviously not, or like the long-suffering electorate you would know beyond any shadow of a doubt that Labour has now become a party that are perfectly at ease, with stoutly declaring one stance, whilst passionately embracing another!

Miliband-Red-Ed1